Saturday, July 7, 2007

The Closing of the Evangelical Mind

The Closing of the Evangelical Mind:
Where Are the Bereans?
A Call for a Return to Biblical Discernment

In 1987 Alan Bloom wrote The Closing of the American Mind in response to a trend he observed developing in the intellectual community. "There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of," he writes, "almost every student entering the university believes. . .that truth is relative." The reduction of truth to relativity, moved Bloom to declare that the American mind was "closed."

Though many on today’s Evangelical stage would assert their belief in the absolute nature of truth, in reality we have become practical relativists. We refuse to open the door to the blatant error of the Mormons, yet when the message comes to us on the contemporary Christian platter we find ourselves gladly at the buffet! Thus the "closing" of the evangelical mind, leads ultimately to its "opening." Yet, the Biblical answer to a closed mind is not an open mind, but a discerning one.

The discerning mind takes seriously the Biblical command to "examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil" (1Thes 5:21-22). This admonition provided the Thessalonians with a "crash course" in discernment. A course in which we should all enroll. The instruction is both direct and comprehensive. The church is to test before it ingests! Over the years, I have found the feeding of my little ones quite facinating. Whatever is moved toward their mouths on a spoon (they can be quite undiscriminating), their mouths simply open! How this mirrors the contemporary church! Ironically, this command from the Apostle Paul is found in a letter written to a congregation in danger of being misled by false instruction regarding the Second Coming. In a day when we take more cues from novels than from Scripture, we seem to have forgotten these words recorded in Holy writ! Understandably, novels do seem to speak to an age where fiction is more easily swallowed and fact leaves a bitter taste. Where are the Bereans with noble minds moving them to test all by the Word?

Notice further, the text indicates that upon examination of the teaching they receive, they discover that all that glitters is not gold! We must be discriminating people, fully aware that false teachers and their teaching are found throughout the body of Christ (See Acts 20:28-32). We must call good, good and evil, evil. Holding to the former, we must do away with the latter.

Finally, they are to "abstain from every form of evil." "Abstain" means to hold something away from oneself. Certainly, we must be known for what we affirm. Yet, we must further be known for what we deny. This is neither easy, nor joyful. Standing opposed to that which is false is a difficult task. Yet the Scripture tells us we are to "turn away from," "be on guard against," and "flee from" all that is erroneous. The language couldn’t be stronger.

Question: What is wrong with the church? Answer: Worldliness. David Wells in No Place for Truth states: "Where (the church) substitutes intuition and feelings for Biblical truth. . .Where its appetite for the Word has been lost in favor of light discourses and entertainment. . .the church is being worldly." The world is pressing upon us from without, and arising from within through our own fleshly yearnings. Failing at discrimination, our churches find themselves running more like secular businesses than spiritual bodies, being led more by marketing strategists than by the master's shepherds, and putting forth a perverted gospel of self-fulfillment over self-denial. Failing to "guard the trust," we find it stolen from before our very eyes.

Examining those who claim to be God’s servants and the meals they serve is a discomforting activity. Yet, regarding the commands to "examine," "hold," and "abstain" we cannot afford to close our eyes, turn a deaf ear, and say nothing like the proverbial Three Blind Mice. This is the divine obligation of all! Publishers, professors, pastors and pew-folk, we will all be called to account. We must "be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong" (1Cor 16:13). Let us take heed, lest the indictment spoken against undiscerning Israel, our children one day say of us: "An appalling and horrible thing Has happened. . .The prophets prophesy falsely, And the priests rule on their own authority; And My people love it so! But what will you do at the end of it" (Jer 5:30-31)?

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Evangelical: Our Commitment to the Biblical Gospel

The Cambridge Declaration, a document published by the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, opens with these words, "In the course of history words change. In our day this has happened to the word "evangelical." In the past it served as a bond of unity between Christians from a wide diversity of church traditions. Historic evangelicalism was confessional."

To say that we are "evangelical" in a day such as ours is almost, in some sense, to say everything and hence say nothing at all. The word "evangelical" is so common on the lips of those in today’s church that one can be almost anything and still consider himself to be "evangelical!" The root of the word "evangelical" is the word "evangel," meaning "good news." To say that we are "evangelical" is to say that we are committed to the truth of the Biblical gospel - the message of the good news of God’s redeeming grace found in Jesus Christ alone. We confess, along with those of various traditions in the history of the church of Jesus Christ, the truthfulness and enduring presence of the gospel which "is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16 NASB). As the Confessional Baptist blog, we are in this sense "evangelical" - committed to the historic and Biblical gospel of Jesus Christ.

We believe that in the gospel alone God displays his mighty power to save. As the Apostle Paul clearly stated some two millennia ago:

NAB Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH."

It is nothing less than the majestic, irresistible, unsearchable, great, incomparable, strong, everlasting, effectual, and sovereign power of God that is put on display in the gospel that works for the salvation of men! It needs no supplementation by men! Why we ever feel the need to supplement it with anything we can do is beyond sound reason to discover. The gospel needs no aid by the demonstration of man’s physical powers, endorsements by professionals, visible signs and wonders worked by men seeking personal power, or even my personal testimony to make it effective. It, in itself, is the power of God for salvation.

We must always remain committed to this gospel and stand ready to share it with every man, trusting God to demonstrate its strength. In the words of Spurgeon:

The apostle was ready to go anywhere with the gospel, but he was not ready to preach another gospel; no one could make him ready to do that. He was not ready to hide the gospel, he was not ready to tone it down, he was not ready to abridge it or to extend it...As to the matter of preaching the gospel, Paul was always ready for that; he kept not back any one of its truths, nor any part of its teaching. Even if it should bring upon him ridicule and contempt, though it should be to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness.

O’ Gospel of God Sufficient to Save,
Where God Puts His Powerful Arm on Display.
God Has Promised His Gospel in One Complete Book,
It Is There for My Hope, and There Alone Will I Look.
This Promise Was Spoken, Through Prophets of Old,
It Is They of His Gospel Who So Faithfully Told.
The World, Flesh and Devil, Seek to Pull Me Away,
But in the Book I Will Rest, I Will Rest All the Way.
O’ Gospel of God Sufficient to Save,
Where God Puts His Powerful Arm on Display

Reformed: Our Commitment to the Reformation

To say that one is Reformed has the effect of bringing many different images in the minds of different people. Let us simply say that in stating that the Confessional Baptist blog is Reformed is to say that we see ourselves first as being indebted to those who have gone before us. In the early part of the 16th century, an event swept through the halls of the church that left her forever changed.

The legacy of the Reformation is embodied in a monument in Geneva, Switzerland. This monument, known as "The Monument to the Reformers" displays the memory of four men used by God to change history forever. There, chiseled in stone, towering some thirty feet in the air, stand four men carved in stone: William Farel, John Calvin, Theodore Beza, and John Knox - men used by God in the reformation of the church of their day. Chiseled into the stone, around the image, is the Latin phrase: Post tenebras lux - After darkness, light! These words embody the historical event known as the Reformation, in which the darkness that had engulfed the light of the gospel through the perversions of the Roman Catholic Church through the centuries, had been lifted by the grace of Almighty God.

This image embodies in many ways the hope of the impact and influence of the Confessional Baptist blog. Though the gospel was recovered in those dark days (almost 500 years ago), we are in danger today of finding ourselves in dark days once again. One might say of the church today: Post lux, tenebras - After light, darkness! Once again the church of Jesus Christ is, by nature of various forces, seeing the gospel of her beloved Savior eclipsed, her name tarnished, and her doctrine undermined. We seek, along with many other faithful brethren, a new Reformation - that once again, in our day, the light of the gospel of the glory of God in the face of Jesus may shine bright for the joy of all peoples. We stand on their shoulders and on those of others who have gone before, remaining committed to the gospel they loved and preached, and for which many gave their very lives.
Furthermore, as a Reformed blog, we stand committed to the great truths of the gospel that were recovered in the aforementioned period. These truths are laid out in detail in the following affirmations:

Our Authority: Scripture Alone
We hold Scripture, the word of God, to be inspired, inerrant, authoritative, complete, and sufficient as the only conscience-binding authority of man. It reveals the character of God to men and serves as an absolute guide into all truth necessary for life and godliness. Through it Christ rules His church and equips it for every good work.

Our Message: Grace Alone
We hold that the message of the gospel is a message of grace. Grace is the unmerited favor of God by which He redeems sinners. The Holy Spirit, through the proclamation of the gospel message (which is good news for all them that believe), regenerates the heart, bringing it to repentance and faith in the all-sufficient grace of God. In this gospel message of grace, God alone is savior and in this way fulfills His eternal purpose in bringing glory to Himself alone.

Our Confidence: Faith Alone
We hold that man lays hold of this gospel by faith alone. Faith is the gift of God, not a work of man, and is God’s means of justifying sinners and making them right with Himself. Our only hope before Almighty God is trusting Him and forsaking all self-will and effort.

Our Focus: Christ Alone
Based on the fully righteous life and atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ, God justifies the one who has faith in Him. Christ, and Christ alone, is the ground of the believer’s justification before a holy God. We hold that the focus of redemption, life and eternity is Christ and Christ alone. Our sole aim is to please Him by seeking Him with all that we are.

Our Purpose: The Glory of God Alone
We hold that the purpose of the church universal and local, as well as the purpose of the individual believers which make up the church (this is where blogs would come in), is the continual seeking of the glory of God, and of God alone, in all that she does. "For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.".

Confessional: Our Commitment to Confessionalism

Each church, and all the members of it, are bound to pray continually for the good and prosperity of all the churches of Christ, in all places, and upon all occasions to further every one within the bounds of their places and callings, in the exercise of their gifts and graces, so the churches, when planted by the providence of God, so as they may enjoy opportunity and advantage for it, ought to hold communion among themselves, for their peace, increase of love, and mutual edification. [1689 London Bapist Confession of Faith]

Although the particular congregations are distinct and several Bodies, every one a compact and knit city in itself; yet are they all to walk by one and the same Rule, and by all means convenient to have the council and help of another in all needful affairs of the church, as members of one body in the common faith under Christ their only head.
[First London Baptist Confession of Faith]

This passion, for confessional association, once strong among our Baptist brethren, no longer holds the attraction it once did in the lives of many of our congregations. The causes of a negative reaction or a turning away from "associational" life as set forth in our ancient Baptist confessions, are many and varied. A sampling of "reactions" against confessionalism is set forth in the items that follow:

1. The Mask of Scriptural Authority: Many say having a confessional-fellowship (CF) intrudes on the authority of Scripture in the life of the believer and the church. "I believe the Bible," they vehemently declare, even following their declaration up with verbiage about "inerrancy" and "infallibility" (themselves confessional declarations - but we will not quibble about that here). Simply put these brothers, many of them well-meaning, want to affirm the sole authority of the Scripture in the life of the church and they see the use of confessions to frame our fellowship as intrusive to that desire. Interestingly, in affirming "Sola Scriptura," many of them seem to forget that many of our sound, orthodox creeds or confessions came out of the period of the Reformation and years following. Apparently the Reformers so no contradiction between the formal principle of scriptural authority and the formal stating of their beliefs in a confessional framework.

2. The Cry for No Creed but Christ: Though this seems at first glance to be the most "spiritual" of the objections, it is but a smoke screen for today’s "individual" who wants his own personal Jesus who looks and acts more like a marionette puppet than the authoritative Christ making his demands on his people through his written word. Embedded in this cry is often an inherent dislike and opposition to authority and accountability to any outside the all sovereign self.

3. The Doctrine Divides Mentality: There seems to be a prevailing view among many in our anti-doctrinal age that doctrine divides. On the affirmative side, we agree, truth does in fact divide: it separates the wheat from the chaff, the weeds from the wheat, the true from the false, and the sheep from the goats. Doctrine does divide, thanks be unto God! On the flip side of this however, the lable the preaching or statement of true biblical doctrine with the pejorative designation "divider of unifies brethren" is to put the blame in the wrong place. It’s like blaming the doctor for ruining your "healthy" lung as his knife precisely makes its incision reveal a cancerous tumor within. The truth often sheds light on the error and "dis-unity" already present in the body. The truth of the word of God comes in like the two edge sword, with the first pass it exposes and lays bare and with the second it makes whole and brings healing. B. H. Carroll, that great Baptist theologian from the early 20th century said of this kind of church:

"A church with a little creed is a church with a little life. The more divine doctrines a church can agree on, the greater its power, and the wider its usefulness. The fewer its articles of faith, the fewer its bonds of union and compactness. The modern cry, ‘Less creed and more liberty,’ is a degeneration from the vertebrate to the jellyfish, and means less unity and less morality, and it means more heresy. Definitive truth does not create heresy - it only exposes and corrects. Shut off the creed and the Christian world would fill up with heresy unsuspected and uncorrected, but note the less deadly."

4. Modern Arrogance Against Heritage: Just like nobody wants to found driving their "father’s" Oldsmobile, nobody wants to be found holding on to their father’s confession. We live in the day where new is always better. In our church’s statement regarding the confession we rejoice that we are able in affirming it to find therein "a link with faithful brothers who have gone before." Many see this as mere nostalgia and holding on to something dead and forgotten and long since needing to be buried and forgotten. But we disagree. New isn’t always better, and we, like those who originally penned the contents of the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (herein referred to as the Confession) "have no itch to clogge Religion with new words, but do readily acquiesce in that form of sound words, which hath been, in consent with the holy Scriptures, used by others before us; hereby declaring before God, Angels, and Men, our hearty agreement with them in that wholesome Protestant Doctrine."

5. Overemphasis on Experience Centered Faith: Our is the day in which the age old quest to know God has been replaced with the new and improved journey of experiencing God. The idea of a confession just seems to "get in the way" and hinder the free-flow wonder of being lost in the divine. I am not always sure what that means, but that’s the point. We live in the day of the Protestant mystic seeking the unmediated encounter with God - in His undefined pure essence. This experience is often un-defined (by Scripture) and un-interpretable (even by the self). Since God is not defined by the Scripture and set forth clearly in confessional statements, one is left defining God on their own terms, much after their own image and desire. I believe I read something like this has happened before and the end was not good.
Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their direction; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when
the end comes? (Jer 2:12-13, 5:30-31 ESV)

6. Denial of Invisible/Universal Church: Others reject the idea of a confessional fellowship or associationalism due to an overemphasis on the local church to the denial of or practical ignorance of the church universal. The Confession states emphatically right at the front of the chapter on the church in section 1 that the catholic or universal church, which (with respect to the internal work of the Spirit and truth of grace) may be called invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ, the head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. Whether this is a hang over position from the days of J. R. R. Graves and his Landmark friends or simply an ignorance to the clear teachings of Scripture on the plan of God being larger and grander that simply the church of Christ taking local, bodily expressions in the end it smacks of an arrogance isolationism that keeps the body of Christ ever divided in this world and fails to give practical expression to the passion of Christ to see His church one.

7. Modern Evangelical Lack of Regard for Clarity: The "Rodney King" heart cry of "Can’t we all just get along" continues to be found even amongst the most conservative of our Baptist brethren. Doctrine matters, as long as it is doctrine that matters "to me!" As soon as we touch on a point of Scripture material that seems divisive, difficult, or discouraging, we hear it declared a "non-essential" and are encouraged to just agree to disagree and get back to the main thing, which in my Baptist group is always "evangelism." No to mention that it might help us do better evangelism if we stopped "doing" the gospel to perhaps discuss the "is" of the gospel - but that would take us away from "doing" and in the eyes of many - that’s a bad thing. By stating that we are a confessional fellowship we are saying, among other things, doctrine matters! All of it at that! Everything in the Scripture, though it may not have "equal weight" is in fact in bounds! We want the whole truth and nothing but the truth - So help us God!

8. Success/Market Ministry Syndrome: It seems that no matter how hard we try or how well intentioned we are, we fight in the ministry every day with the competition bug. We, like the opponents of the Apostle Paul are constantly fighting against the temptation to "measure (ourselves) by one another and compare (ourselves) with one another" showing that we are all to often "without understanding" (2 Cor 10:12 ESV). Shameful though it is, the church today is caught up with cultural definitions of success and giving evidence all too often that we are failing to be true servants of Christ and are rather quite content with seeking the approval of man! (See Gal 1:10) This sin keeps us apart! After all who wants to really get together, in the confessional sense, and when the other church is for all practical purposes - well - the enemy!

9. Purpose Driven Ministry Craze: I was tempted to put this with the one before, but I treat it separately on purpose (pardon the pun!). In the purpose driven model of church life each church is challenged to "think up" their own purpose statement that captures their particular niche of the "market." In other words, in this model, you have to creatively determine with God is saying to your church. You would think Blackaby and Warren got together for this one! The idea that God has a different "purpose" for each church works against the idea of confessionalism - for Christ doesn’t have messages and purposes for each church - rather the task of the church is to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches. One message, in one book, for one purpose.

I am sure there are more reasons many in today’s church seem to reject confessionalism, but surely that’s enough for now. The problem, as I see it, all the arguments against confessionalism matter not - if Scripture itself affirms it. This I believe it does, and for good reason, as we hope to set forth in the points that follow. The following is a brief overview of the points we hope to cover in our paper:

- The Scriptural Mandate of a Confessional-Fellowship
- The Scriptural Means of a Confessional-Fellowship
- The Scriptural Motivation of a Confessional-Fellowship
- The Scriptural Mutuality of a Confessional-Fellowship
- The Scriptural Marks of a Confessional-Fellowship
Each of these would require a paper it their own right. For our purposes we intend to briefly cover each in one paper. Consider first with me...
The Scriptural Mandate of a Confessional-Fellowship
Mandate is a powerful term and should not be used arbitrarily. But it is a good word for us here with the subject matter at hand. For if in fact we have no biblical directive (either explicit or implicit) for a confessional-fellowship, at best we are wasting our time - at worst we are following our own self-made schemes. Fortunately we do in fact have just such a mandate. This mandate is clearly inferred from the scriptural teaching regarding Christ in his position, person, and finally in his petition.
The Position of Christ: The Head of the Church
Ephes. 4:15-16 (ESV) Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, [16] from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
The Lord Christ himself is the original and spring of this union, and every particular church is united unto him as its head; besides which, with or under which, it hath none. This relation of the church unto Christ as its head the apostle expressly affirms to be the foundation and cause of its union...And unless this union be dissolved, unless a church be disunited from Christ, it cannot be so from the catholic church, nor any true church of Christ in particular, however it may be dealt withal by others in the world. From Christ, as the head and spring of union, there proceedeth unto all particular churches a bond of union, which is his Holy Spirit, acting itself in them by faith and love, in and by the ways and means and for the ends of his appointment. This is the kingly, royal, beautiful union of the church: Christ, as the only head of influence and rule, bringing it into a relation unto himself as his body, communicating of his Spirit unto it, governing it by the law of his word, enabling it unto all the duties of faith, love, and holiness. [John Owen, The True Nature of a Gospel Church: Of the Communion of Churches, Works, Vol 16, p.189-190]
The Person of Christ: The Embodiment of Truth
John 14:6 (ESV)Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
John 18:37-38 (ESV) Then Pilate said to him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world— to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice." [38] Pilate said to him, "What is truth?"
Ephes. 4:15 (ESV) Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,
Ephes. 4:21 (ESV) assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus,
Ephes. 4:25 (ESV) Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.
The Petition of Christ: For Oneness in the Church
John 17:20-23 (ESV) "I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, [21] that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. [22] The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, [23] I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
The Scriptural Means of a Confessional-Fellowship
Scriptural Means 1: They Shared an Embodied Tradition - The New Testament speaks often of a collection or embodiment of tradition, material that was known, discernable, contained, and passed on from one to another. The following is a sampling of texts that speak to the matter.

1 Cor. 15:1-8 (ESV) Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, [2] and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. [3] For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, [4] that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, [5] and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. [6] Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. [7] Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. [8] Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
1 Tim. 3:14-15 (ESV) I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, [15] if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of truth.
1 Tim. 6:20-21 (ESV) O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called "knowledge," [21] for by professing it some have swerved from the faith.
Earlier in his letter Paul had mentioned to Timothy two such men who wandered from this "faith," this body of truth.
1 Tim. 1:18-20 (ESV) This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, [19] holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith (lit. "the faith"), [20] among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.
3 John 1:4 (ESV) I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
Jude 1:3 (ESV) Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.
Scriptural Means 2: They Shared the Confessional Formation of this Tradition - Often this tradition was "confessionally" stated.
Romans 10:9 (ESV) because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
1 Cor. 12:3 (ESV) Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says "Jesus is accursed!" and no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except in the Holy Spirit.
1 Cor. 15:3-5 (ESV) For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, [4] that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, [5] and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
Philip. 2:5-11 (ESV) Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, [6] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, [7] but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, [8] he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. [9] Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, [10] so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, [11] and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
1 Tim. 3:16 (ESV) Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.
Hebrews 1:1-4 (ESV) Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, [2] but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. [3] He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, [4] having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
Scriptural Means 3: They Shared a Common Body of Instructional Documents - The letters and documents of the New Testament were "common" and shared by all the churches as time went by. Thus they were in a sense, reading off the same page - a confessional page!
Galatians 1:2 (ESV) and all the brothers who are with me, To the churches of Galatia:
Galatians 6:11 (ESV) See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.
Ephes. 1:1 (ESV) Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus
Col. 4:16, 18 (ESV) [16] And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea. [18] I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.
Rev. 1:10-11 (ESV) I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet [11] saying, "Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea."
2 Peter 3:14-16 (ESV) Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. [15] And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, [16] as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.
Rev. 2:7 (ESV) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I
will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.'
Rev. 2:11 (ESV) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.'
Rev. 2:17 (ESV) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.'

Rev. 2:29 (ESV) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'
Rev. 3:6 (ESV) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'
Rev. 3:13 (ESV) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'
Rev. 3:22 (ESV) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.' "
Scriptural Means 4: They Shared Opposition to False Doctrine - It is fascinating to note that the majority of the New Testament epistles (Pauline and General) contain warnings against the dangers of false doctrine and the self-appointed teachers who propagate it. What is instructional for us here is that the presence of false doctrine was to be discernable for the churches based upon the truth that they had been taught(for example see Romans 16:17) clearly points to a confessional basis for fellowship within the Christian community.
See Rom 16:17-18, the entirety of the Corinthian letters, Gal 1:6-9, Eph 5:8-14, 6:12 (read with Acts 19), Phil 3, Col 2, 1Thes 4:7, 2Thes 2, 3:6, 14-15, 1Tim 1:18-20, 4:1, 6:20-21, 2Tim 3:1, 4:14-15, Tit 1:10-16, 2:15, 3:10, Heb 13:7-11, 1Pet 5:6-12, 2Pet 2, 3:17, 1John 4:1-6, 2John 10, 3 John 9-10, Jude 3-4
Scriptural Motivations of a Confessional-Fellowship
The Scripture presents us with several abiding realities that serve as strong encouragements or motivators for forming and framing our fellowship around confessional standards.
The Church Ever Remains an Impure Mixture - Matthew 13:24-30
Matthew 13:24-30 (ESV) He put another parable before them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, [25] but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. [26] So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. [27] And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, 'Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?' [28] He said to them, 'An enemy has done this.' So the servants said to him, 'Then do you want us to go and gather them?' [29] But he said, 'No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. [30] Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'"
We are Called to Walk by the Rule of the Truth - Galatians 6:11-16
Galatians 6:11-16 (ESV) See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. [12] It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. [13] For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. [14] But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. [15] For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. [16] And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.
Our Associations Must be Pure - 1Cor 5:9-12, 2Cor 6:14-7:1, Eph 5:11
1 Cor. 5:9-12 (ESV) I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— [10] not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. [11] But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. [12] For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?
2 Cor. 6:14-7:1 (ESV) Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? [15] What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? [16] What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, "I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. [17] Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, [18] and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty." [7:1] Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.
Ephes. 5:11 (ESV) Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.
False Teachers and Teachings Abound - 1Tim 4, 1John 4, Jude 4
1 Tim. 4:1 (ESV) Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons,
1 John 4:1-6 (ESV) Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. [2] By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, [3] and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. [4] Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. [5] They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. [6] We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
Jude 1:3-4 (ESV) Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. [4] For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
We are Commanded to not Associate with Those Who do not Hold to the "Teaching"
Romans 16:17-18 (ESV) I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. [18] For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.
2 Thes. 3:6 (ESV) Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.
2 Thes. 3:14 (ESV) If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed.
Titus 3:10 (ESV) As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him,
2 John 1:10 (ESV) If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting,
The Scriptural Mutuality of a Confessional-Fellowship
By labeling this section with the term "mutuality" we seek to emphasize and draw attention to the fact that a confessional fellowship assumes a complementary and reciprocal relation between churches where there is benefit for all parties in the relation. In the words of the great Apostle Paul:
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, [2] complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. [3] Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. [4] Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philip. 2:1-4 ESV).
This mentality of mutuality should be at the heart of the associational relationship. Recall the wording of the Second and First London Baptist Confessions of faith regarding the relation between churches is to effect:
Second London: hold communion among themselves, for their peace, increase of love, and mutual edification
First London: by all means convenient to have the council and help of another in all needful affairs of the church
The Second London is more particular in its elaborations, but in effect they state the same thing. If we line out the three benefits or the "scriptural mutuality" of the relation they are as follows:
1. We Are to Labor Together for Peace
2. We are to Labor Together for the Increase of Love
3. We are to Labor Together for Mutual Edification
For the expression of what this will "look" like, we turn our attention to the marks of this confessional fellowship.
The Scriptural Marks of a Confessional-Fellowship
The "marks" or external evidences of this "internal" commitment to one another in a confessional fellowship are many of the same marks that will evidence healthy church communion itself. In other words - our confessional fellowship - will strive to give evidence to our confession of the headship of Christ, our love for him and our love for one another. Some of the tangible matters will involve the following:
Our Fellowship Must be Marked by Love
1 Cor. 16:14 (ESV) Let all that you do be done in love.

Our Fellowship Must be Marked by Order
1 Cor. 14:33 (ESV) For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.
1 Cor. 14:40 (ESV) But all things should be done decently and in order.
Our Fellowship Must be Marked by Edification
1 Cor. 14:26 (ESV) Let all things be done for building up.
Our Fellowship Must be Marked by Truth
Eph. 4:15-16 (ESV)Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, [16] from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
3 John 1:8 (ESV) Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.
Illustration: The Jerusalem Council - Acts 15
Our Fellowship Must be Marked by Care
Philip. 2:1-4 (ESV) So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, [2] complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. [3] Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. [4] Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
2 Cor. 11:9 (ESV) And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way.
Ephes. 4:28 (ESV) Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.

Philip. 4:11 (ESV) Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.
1 John 3:17 (ESV) But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?

Our Fellowship Must be Marked by Service
Service of Sharing Gifts: 1 Peter 4:10-11 (ESV) As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: [11] whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Service of Sharing People: Philip. 2:25-30 (ESV) I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, [26] for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. [27] Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. [28] I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. [29] So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, [30] for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.
Our Fellowship Must be Marked by Glory
1 Cor. 10:31 (ESV) So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.